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Shag Beer's name shocks Minister

The name and marketing slogans of Shag bottled beer have so offended our State's Gaming and Racing Minister Grant McBride that he has threatened to ban the sale of the Dutch brew in New South Wales.

"I'm outraged by this product," he said. "To name the product Shag links it directly with sexual intercourse - and that's not on. It is irresponsible to link alcohol and sex so blatantly. It flies in the face of safe sex and responsible drinking campaigns that various governments have been advocating for the last 20 years."

The Sydney Sun-Herald's State political editor, Alex Mitchell wrote:

Mr McBride, an avowed teetotaller and non-gambler with eight children, has banned three other alcoholic products since becoming the Gaming and Racing Minister in 2003: Moo Joose, a chocolate milkshake flavoured with vodka; AWOL, a machine turning alcohol into vapour for instant 'hits'; and an alcohol promotion linked to CD sales.

Advertisements show a bottle of the beer - with a 5 per cent alcohol content - on the back seat of a car, with the accompanying caption "Fancy a shag?" Others show a bottle on a sofa, a kitchen table and against a wall with the same caption. The beer is also marketed as a message on a door sign which reads: "Do not disturb, having a shag."

According to a US website, the beer is sold internationally by Terry Ball's Rebell Holdings company as Shag. Advertisements feature a bottle of the beer on the back seat of a car and the catchphrase: "Fancy a Shag?" Mr Ball insists the beer is named after the bird of the same name.

A spokeswoman for Shag's Australian distributor, the Kollaras Group, expressed surprise that the beer's name had caused a shindy. "It's named after a shag, the bird, which features on the label," she said. The imported lager had been on sale in Sydney and Wollongong since last year. It costs $30 a carton.

Not surprisingly, Mr McBride's proposed ban has evoked worldwide mirth. An internet search reveals these comments:

AMSTERDAM An Australian government minister is planning to ban the sale of a Dutch-made beer known as 'Shag' a slang word in English for having sex.

However, Dutch brewery Alfa has downplayed the controversy as nothing more than "a storm in a glass of beer".

Alfa - which is based in Schinnen in the province of Limburg - said it was approached a couple of years ago by a British entrepreneur who offered to sell Alfa beer under the name Shag.

In the past two to three years, the company has dispatched 20 to 30 containers across the globe, each of them holding 35,000 bottles. "For us, it is a small part of the turnover," an Alfa spokesman said.
- Expatica News, Netherlands.

"How can someone be 'outraged' by a beer? One that is named after a bird with a bird on its label? Hasn't the minister over-reacted? Surely he is appalled at the 'marketing' of the product - not the product itself. If he wants to be outraged by a beer - get stuck into XXXX! "
- Editor, BarMax (Australia).

"The Nanny State Supreme strikes again! What next - no more shaggy dog stories, shaggy haircuts, deep shag carpeting, shag as in tobacco. I am afraid Oz bureaucracy is becoming more and more ponce-like, even worse than the previous Nanny State Supreme - the UK!"
- Mail and Guardian forum, Johannesburg, South Africa.

And on Sydney talkback radio, someone said that if the minister bans Shag beer, what will he do about another popular drink, root beer?

Root beer, also known as horehound (the minister might think that could be spelt whorehound) is sold under numerous brand names in many parts of the world. It has been called "a classic North American soft drink." I can remember draught root beer being served in horehound bars at Sydney railway stations many years ago.

We believe the word shag is less offensive in the U.S. than in other English-speaking countries. Austin Powers, a fictitious sex-mad 1960s secret agent created by Mike Myers, popularised the term shagadelic in three hit movies, including The Spy Who Shagged Me. Singapore authorities briefly changed its title to The Spy Who Shioked Me. (Shioked: treated nicely.) Powers' CIA colleague was felicitously named ... Felicity Shagwell.

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Story first posted July 2005

Copyright 2005

Eric Shackle

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